I awoke on my 52nd birthday, not to find a card propped up on the pillows beside me, or flowers on the table beside my bed, but I didn’t feel like a jilted lover because of it. My heart wasn’t fractured at all. (Even if he performed such grand gestures, Russ wasn’t home yet from working the night shift at the hospital.) There will be no cake this year because I’ve had gastric bypass surgery nine weeks ago and cake and other sweets are no longer on the menu. On the bright side of that, I can already wear blouses, pants, and skirts two sizes smaller than I could when my weight-loss journey began. But this isn’t about my surgery; it’s about my birthday. My 52nd birthday. 

I went to bed shortly after midnight last night, thinking about the number 52. Did it have any sort of importance or symbolism? I could hear my mom and Papaw Little joking with me as a child, “Come here, I’ll teach you a new card game – it’s called 52-Pickup!” I only fell for that once, always looking for a new game to play as a kid. So, yes, there are 52 cards in a standard deck if you don’t count Jokers – and I’ve always loved cards because each suit has thirteen cards in it and thirteen is my favorite number. Then there’s the obvious one – there are 52 weeks in the year. That seemed pretty cool. I could spend one week this year thinking about each of the years I have been alive and what that year meant to me, what happened during it, and so forth – it’s the only “birthday” that would work for such an activity. Ah! It’s the alphabet, twice – once with capital letters, once with lower-case letters. This appealed to the writer in me, this notion of my age corresponding with that body of objects through which I express myself both verbally and in writing daily. 

Surely there were other things. So, I turned to the Crystal Ball of Cyberspace, the Magic 8-Ball of the Internet; I Googled it. Apparently, in Numerology, 52 “carries the vibrations of new beginnings, good fortune, and positive change” and additionally “symbolizes harmony, balance, and relationships” (from https://sarahscoop.com). I‘m up for all of that! In mathematical circles, it is “an untouchable number, since it is never the sum of proper divisors of any number (from 52 (number) Wikipedia). I don’t understand all the mathematical implications here – remember, I like letters, not numbers – but I like to think of 52 as “untouchable,” somehow. It’s also a rational number (https://brainly.in), and I’d rather be rational than irrational in most instances. What else about 52? Well, there’s the B-52 Bomber, although I prefer the music group, the B-52’s. There’s an old Highway 52 in Virginia that ceased to be long, long before I was born there, that was replaced by Route 460, which is a major route in my life for most of my childhood and adulthood. And there are 52 white keys on a standard piano – you know I love music!

Even as I write this for our Zoom group, my phone keeps dinging – probably not 52 times, but a bunch. Messages literally from all over the world, wishing me a happy birthday. Even a friend from Rome with a voice message to me to me from six time zones away, and another friend in South Carolina singing it to me. I miss Mom singing it to me early in the morning, so early in the morning that I would hold the phone away from my ear and roll my eyes because she only did it to wake me up early and complain about how much better she felt today than she did x-number of years ago today. Yes, I miss that probably most of all in terms of birthday rituals. But otherwise, I’m ready for the great things about 52 and what the next 52 weeks have in store for me.